Well, Parisssss! Famous for art, architecture, the language, fashion and pick pockets. Yes you read that right, everywhere people and boards warned me of keeping things safe, the city has some of the world’s best flickers! With a map photographed in the flight, a couple of places to visit marked I embarked on the Paris airport and muttered a silent prayer that I should get back home safe and sound.
I asked a lot of people around for directions to the Eiffel tower but each one had a different route or maybe I got them wrong because none of them spoke Anglais. Mostly people told me to take an RER and a few thought bus was better. You have variety of options – Metro, RER which is also a train, tram and bus. I first went to the bus stop but there wasn’t any bus for 15 min. So I walked back and opted for RER. The lady at the ticketing desk was rude and dint tell me to which station to get the tickets for as Eiffel doesn’t have direct connectivity from the airport. Then another lady told me to take the Paris ticket. 9.25 Euros. But no platform mentioned. I went into one and there was no one in the platform. So I exited (mind u it is all automated so I swiped in once and swiped out too). As I exited I saw the station master and he told me to go to platform 11. Now, my ticket was not allowing me to get in because I have completed my journey by entering and exiting a station! What do I do? I tried it again in the next gate, no luck.
Thennnn, there was a girl who was getting in with an extra-large bag. She swiped and as she was entering the bag got stuck. This gave me a brain wave. I popped in my ticket and I thought of entering along with her because the gate’s stuck. Tail gating, as we techies call it! The gate was closing already and the bag almost thro. I tagged along close by and I got thro. Voila! But, my bag pack got stuck midway. Oh dear. The guy behind me forced the gate open a bit and the bag came thru, Merci Monsieur! The train came immediately. I asked 2 girls standing near the door of it will go to the Eiffel and they said “hop in”. They took out a suburb map which had the route of all transportation in Paris. They told me it’ll take up to 45 min to reach and I’ll have to change the train mid way. They told me where to get off and which one to take next. So I looked thru the window anxiously as the train got crowded with each stop. I had taken out a few currency notes, the credit card and the camera and placed them safely in my jeans pockets. The passport and the wallet were wrapped in my sweater and placed in the bag. Changed train in Notre Dame. The tour Eiffel stop came and I alighted.
Now will the ticket which didn’t allow me to get in allow me to get out? I never thought of the implications of my actions, did I? How do I get out? What’ll I tell the non-English speaking station guy? I decided that I’ll try once and if unsuccessful go get another lowest value ticket for getting out or find the station master and ask him to let me out by telling my story of swiping out by mistake. But come on, I wasn’t cheating and I was just ignorant. So when I tried getting out, no Luck dint open the gates – technology works correctly, it sent a guy again! The one behind me swiped and asked me to get out with him quickly before it closed. 🙂
There I was straining my neck upwards to get the full view of the towering Eiffel. Looked close by but was a good half a km away. They girls on the train had already told me that if I wait for the lift to the top, it would take at least 2 hours as most people opt for it. The line was very long. On the right the queue for taking the stairs to the top had hardly a dozen people. I joined them as instructed by the girls before. They were saying that it might have 1000 steps. And I braved it and went ahead. 1 full ticket adult -10.5 Euros. Full ticket by itself means adult right, redundancy I thought. I did not count the number of steps and I was heaving when I reached the first level. Maybe there were 300 to level 1. The view was awesome. A guide was explaining the various buildings to a group of people and I was happy that I got to see most of the famous ones from there. I couldn’t see the Louvre though. After a few photographs I started climbing to level two. Another 300 perhaps. The view was again good. I regretted for not buying a bottle of water before entering the tower. I was panting. After a few min of rest I walked around the level and there was a restaurant. Great. Grabbed a large glass of coke and I was ready for the next and the final level. The tower top. As I showed the ticket for the next level the security told me that since I have got the full ticket I can take the elevator to the last level. The last level is not allowed by foot and people who don’t want to go to the last level get a half ticket. So, it wasn’t redundant, ara (Tamil word) ticket does not mean a child’s ticket after all 😉 Good.
The view from the top was breathtaking. The river beside, chill air blowing thru your face and pictures being clicked all around. I spent some time and enjoyed the feeling and then descended, in the lift till the level 2 and stairs from then on. I need to Google the number of steps I took now 😉
View from the top
The next most important place was Arc de Triomphe. The security at the tower gave me the directions and told me it would take 12 minutes to reach by walk and asked me not to take the bus if I wanted to look around Paris. I followed the route and saw some awe-inspiring buildings, picturesque locations and a variety of people. Japanese, Indians, Muslims with burqa (this gets a special mention because there was agitation a while ago about the ban on burqa in France), smokers at the road corners watching people go by, a caricature artist, boat cruisers, cyclists, skaters, many men in blazers, hot girls, souvenir shoppers, and road rules abiding drivers and pedestrians. I also saw many three-wheeled scooters which could attain good speed in a jiffy. I thought I covered more than 15 min and asked a police guy for directions again. He told me to proceed further. Another two min and still the arc was not in sight. I asked a lady again and she told me that it is pretty far still and asked me to take the metro and reach. I was a little skeptical, so far the route given by the Eiffel guy was right and so I felt it wouldn’t be so far from there. So I continued walking and in about 4 -5 min I saw the arc.
Arc de Triomphe
It was like our India gate with sculptures of Greek gods. Was huge. And again you could climb to the top. I wasn’t very keen as the view from the top would mostly have only the roads around. 12 roads connecting and was one of the biggest in the world.
Got a picture clicked by a Tamil guy in front of it and looked around for the bus stop. I knew that there was bus to the airport as this was the way to reach Eiffel if I had taken the bus. It was about 1 p.m. and I thought it was better to get back instead of wandering more. I asked for the bus stop. 10 min walk they told. As I was crossing the road, a Hindi speaking family came along. I asked them again for the way to the bus stop. They said that bus would take very long and it is better to take the train. On my suburb map they told me to first take a metro for 3 stops, a RER for the next 1 stop and again another RER for the airport. Even with all the changing I would reach in less than an hour they told. Also the station was right there. So I went down the stairs and reached the ticketing kiosk. It did not have an option to change the language to English as the one in the airport. I asked a gentleman in the next machine if he could help. He readily obliged but my credit card dint work. Again, this same card worked at the airport. The gentleman said he has extra tickets and he gave me one and he told me a different route which involved changing only one other RER. The ticket was valid till the airport. He refused to accept money from me for the ticket. He was like, just 2 Euros, forget it. Just! 140 rupees for me! He said he is from Belgium and runs a company in Paris. I swiped in and went along with him to the platform. We got down in the second station. He guided me to the next platform and left. I got my train to the airport in 4 min, timetable followed on dot. I recognized the next station as I had passed thru it earlier in the day. At that stop an announcement was made that from then on it will be a nonstop one to the last stop which is the airport. So I reached a little quicker and now again the way out was blocked. This time I dint know what the problem was; it worked right at Arc de Triomphe, dint it! But the impatient guy behind me swiped out and said tag along! Tail gating everywhere, thanks to people in a hurry to get out, worked to my advantage thrice!
It was 2 p.m. I had 3.45 hours left. I grabbed a sandwich and roamed around the duty-free shops. Went thru the security check and sat near the boarding gate at 3. Even though I was in early I dint regret it; maybe I would have been stuck at the station with the card not working and no one to help. It happens for good.
That’s another reason why this one’s so lengthy; I had nothing but time to write it out. The day had a bit more excitement than usual because the Paris tour was a planned detour. I was flying to Amsterdam for work for 2 weeks. There isn’t a direct flight from Bangalore and got to connect in Paris. Thursday 2 a.m. Bangalore, 8.35 a.m. Paris, 10.30 a.m. connecting flight to Amsterdam and landing at 12 noon. This is how my other colleagues went and I would too. But wait a minute, I am anyway not reporting to work on Thursday, then why reach early? Why not spend time in Paris? So I requested the office travel ticketing guy to book the connecting flight in the evening. Who knows, this might be my only chance in life, you never know. He obliged and that’s how I got to spend some time here. All alone though, without Ashok, in the city of romance. A solitary wanderer.
So far so good, I can pat myself on my back. But will my decision still be right in the end? From 4 it started raining heavily here and a flight got delayed. Now, will I reach Amsterdam on time? Will I reach the hotel correctly if it is late? I should have booked the 4 pm flight, goddamn at least here it was iconic structures that I visited and everyone knew the route but there no one would know the hotel and it’s going to be tough alone. Like an idiot I left the hotel’s number in my office pc. And no one’s at office. I was banking on only 1 thing, it doesn’t get dark in Amsterdam till 10 p.m. Please let that be true today. At 5 the rain stopped, the skies cleared. I was overjoyed but only to find that the storm has moved northward and that’s where I am headed. My flight, after boarding, got delayed by 45 min. So that means I’ll reach only at 7.45 and what if there aren’t many people at the station? I fear taking a cab at unknown places because we don’t know the route, all alone in an unknown place and the cabbie can take you anywhere. So it is safer to stick with public transports.
Another 15 min went searching for a free runway making the delay an hour. I got reassurance from a fellow passenger that it would be bright till 11 p.m. But the rain was bound north, the flight’s having a lot of turbulence and was shaking badly; even the stewards weren’t able to stand still. And if it’s raining in Amsterdam it’s bound to get dark. Again a silent prayer, I should reach safe and sound.
There ends the one-day story, length of maybe a week’s story! Signing off from Paris, see ya with the next update in Amsterdam. God save me! 🙂